How are we doing as community?
Henri Nouwen says that‘Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives.’ People are porcupines – prickly … dangerous…lethal.
But God calls us to community. He achieves his purposes through community. He makes us whole through community.
Dr. Edward Hallowell, a senior lecturer at Harvard medical school, speaks of the basic human need for community. He uses the term connection: the sense of being part of something that matters, something larger than ourselves. We need face to face interactions;we need to be seen and known and served and to do these same things for others. We need to bind ourselves to each other with promises of love and loyalty made and kept. These connections involve other people, of course (and especiallyGod). People draw life from these connections. There is a reason for this. Neil Platinga notes that the Hebrew prophets had a word for just this kind ofconnectedness of all things: Shalom – ‘the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfilment, and delight.’
‘Call it a clan, call it a tribe, call it a network, call it a family,’ says Jane Howard. ‘Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one’. It is not good for man to be alone. ‘The natural condition of life for human beings is reciprocal rootedness in others. But the most important reason to pursue deep community is not for the physical or emotional benefits it brings, great as those may be. Community is the place God made us for. Community is the place God meets us.
However, as much as our ‘reciprocal rootedness in others’ feeds our souls, it is painfully hard at times and ever so disappointing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffersaid people enter relationships with their own particular ideals and dreams of what community should look like. In ‘Life together’ he wrote these surprising words: "But God’s grace quickly frustrates all such dreams. A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves, is bound to overwhelm us as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of genuine Christian community … the sooner this moment of disillusionment comes over the individual and the community, the better for both …. Those who love their dream of Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest,and sacrificial."
So when you’re feeling disillusioned with our King's School community, DON’T GIVE UP. Yes, people are porcupines. But so are you.
Miracle of miracles: Relationship does happen – even for porcupines. On rare occasions, one porcupine will share space with another, and they become friends. Porcupines learn to keep their barbs to themselves. Not only that, they figure out how to get together at least long enough to make sure that another generation will come along. In an image too wonderful to be made up, naturalist Davis Costello writes,‘Males and female porcupines may remain together for some days before mating. They may touch paws and even walk on their hind feet in the so-called ‘dance of the porcupines.’
The greatest danger for a Christian community like the King's School is that we invariably have expectations of one another that will be smashed time and time again. The only way to guard ourselves against becoming filled with bitterness with each successive disappointment is to remind ourselves of Christ's relationship with us. He is exceedingly patient, forgiving and kind, demonstrating for us a better way to be toward one another. May God grant that you can be part of building a truly Christ-reflecting community at The King's School as we bear one another's burdens and forgive one another up to seventy times seven.